Today, We Commemorate 24 Years of the Olmstead Decision
Today the Disability Community marks the 24th anniversary of the Olmstead decision. In this groundbreaking case, the Supreme Court held that "unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act” (ADA.gov), and that government entities must “administer services, programs, and activities in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities.” (28 C.F.R. § 35.130(d)). This decision freed many, though not nearly enough, disabled people from institutions.
Commemorating the Olmstead decision is particularly poignant this year. Lois Curtis, the remaining named plaintiff, passed away on November 3, 2022 at age 55. Elaine Wilson, the other named plaintiff, passed away in 2004. Many of us had gotten to know Lois over the years and appreciated her fierce advocacy before and after the decision. Civil rights lawsuits aren’t won without plaintiffs who are passionately dedicated to justice for themselves and others.
The Disability Community still needs to work to ensure that the promises of the Olmstead decision are realized. During and after disasters are a time when disabled people are likely to be institutionalized (NCD). When we are institutionalized, we get separated from family, get sick or sicker, and die earlier.
As you take time to reflect on the freedom granted by the Olmstead decision, consider taking a few minutes of your time to preserve the Olmstead legacy. You can do this by:
- Looking at www.reaadi.com and learning more about pending legislation that prevents institutionalization in disasters: Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion (REAADI) in Disasters Act and Disaster Relief Medicaid Act (DRMA).
- Contacting your Congressional representatives and letting them know how dangerous institutionalization is for people with disabilities during disasters.
- Asking your Representatives to increase funding for Home and Community-Based Services, providing the resources to support people living independently in their communities.